Bulgaria's Macedonia: Nation-Building and State Building, Centralization and Autonomy in Pirin Macedonia, 1903-1952

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This dissertation explores the intersection between rival forms of consciousness in Pirin Macedonia: national and local, from the anti-Ottoman Ilinden Uprising in Macedonia in 1903 to the end of the Communist "Macedonianization" campaign in 1952. Bulgarian, Macedonian and English-language historiographies have each portrayed this period as one in which a centralized state extended its power into the region and codified a Bulgarian national consciousness among its inhabitants. This dissertation finds that a rival, local consciousness existed through this period as well. The inability of the Bulgarian state in 1878 to secure the annexation of all geographic Macedonia, however, had led in the late nineteenth century to the emergence of a local paramilitary organization, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO).

VMRO is generally portrayed as a nationalist organization. But in leading Macedonians within a struggle against first the Ottoman Empire, then against Greece, Serbia (later, Yugoslavia) and even factions within Bulgaria, it provided an alternative experience of mobilization. The Organization took on functions of the state, able to do this as the Bulgarian state was weakened by internal crises and external enemies. This period thus saw a lengthy struggle between VMRO and the central state to consolidate control over Pirin, a conflict that continued between local elites and the state even after the paramilitary organization was driven underground in 1934.

The "Macedonian Question" has been portrayed as a wedge issue by which external actors -- particularly the Communist International, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany -- could seek to divide Southeastern Europe. This dissertation goes farther in arguing that Macedonia was a divisive issue within national politics as well. Even in the post-1934 Zveno and royal dictatorships, then the Communist-dominated regime after 1944, Pirin remained a divisive issue and one in which a weak central state was forced to find compromise with local interests. The "Macedonianization" campaign that followed the Second World War was the vehicle by which Pirin was subordinated to the Bulgarian state. As such, the campaign appears less as a Soviet-directed campaign for the benefit of Yugoslavia, and more as a means by which Sofia was able to establish control over the district.